Mr Hunt: The hon. Lady had the chance to be constructive. I do welcome her commitment to a safer NHS, but we need actions and not just words from the Labour party if its conversion to improving patient care is to be believed. She mentioned the junior doctors’ strike. Patients and their families will have noticed that, when it came to the big test for Labour—whether to back vulnerable patients, who need a seven-day NHS,

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or the British Medical Association, which opposes it—Labour has chosen the union. She brought up the topic, so let me just remind the House of what Nye Bevan, the founder of the NHS, said about the BMA:

“this small body of politically poisoned people have decided to…stir up as much emotion as they can in the profession…they have mustered their forces on the field by misrepresenting the nature of the call and when the facts are known their forces will disperse.”—[Official Report, 9 February 1948; Vol. 447, c. 36-39.]

Bevan would have wanted high standards of care for vulnerable people across the whole week and so should she.

The hon. Lady also challenged the Government on safety, so let us look at the facts. Under this Government: MRSA down 55%; clostridium difficile down 42%; record numbers of the public saying that their care is safe; the proportion suffering from the major causes of preventable harm down by a third during my period as Health Secretary; and 11 hospitals with unsafe care put into special measures and then taken out of special measures, with up to 450 lives saved according to that programme. Before she gets on her high horse, she should compare that with Labour’s record: avoidable deaths at Mid Staffs, Morecambe Bay, Basildon and many other hospitals; care so bad we had to put 27 hospitals into special measures; the Department of Health under Labour a “denial machine”, according to Professor Sir Brian Jarman; and contracts that reduced weekend cover in our hospitals passed by the last Government. They made a seven-day NHS harder—we are trying to put that right. The hon. Lady mentioned money, but she stood on a platform to put £5.5 billion less into the NHS every year than this Government. On the back of a strong economy, we are putting more resources into the NHS. A strong NHS needs a strong economy, and Labour had better remember that.

Let me look at some of the other points the hon. Lady raised. What I said in my statement about the GMC and NMC guidance was that, having said it would change, that guidance has changed and it is now clear that people are going to be given credit in tribunals for being open and honest about things that have gone wrong. She challenged me about the timing for the introduction of medical examiners, so let me remind her of the facts: the Shipman inquiry third report recommended medical examiners in 2003, Labour failed to implement that over seven years, and in six years we are implementing it, which is what I announced today. I am confident that there will not be additional burdens on local government.

The hon. Lady talked about the issue of supporting trusts that do not have the right reporting culture, and that is exactly what we are doing today, because we have published the names of not only the trusts that do not have a good reporting culture, but the names of those that do have a good reporting culture—trusts such as Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust and many others. The trusts that are struggling with this can learn from them.

The hon. Lady says that I need to do more, but, with respect, let me say that the measures we have taken on openness, transparency and putting quality at the heart of what the NHS does and needs to stand for go a lot further than anything we saw under the last Labour

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Government. I say to her that it says rather a lot that, on a day when this Government have organised a summit, with experts from all over the world, on how to make our hospitals safer, the Labour party is lining up with unions against safer seven-day services. I urge her to think again and to choose the more difficult path of backing reform that will help to make our NHS the safest healthcare system in the world.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): What a shame that the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) did not take the opportunity today to condemn the strikes. Supporting unions and not patients will not impress anyone. May I welcome my right hon. Friend’s excellent statement, join him in paying tribute to the people who work in our NHS, and particularly welcome the setting up of the healthcare safety investigation branch and the system of medical examiners, which will contribute to better results and better outcomes in the health service?

The Secretary of State has taken a personal interest in sepsis, particularly by responding to the UK Sepsis Trust and Dr Ron Daniels, the Mead family, who tragically lost their son, William, and other relatives of patients who have died of sepsis. He knows that the ombudsman report of September 2013 contained many recommendations, including a request for a public awareness campaign, which could save lives. Will the Secretary of State tell us what progress he has made with that, because the relatives who are campaigning seem to have been waiting a long time for this public awareness campaign that they believe will help greatly?

Mr Hunt: I thank my right hon. Friend for her campaigning work on sepsis. Indeed, I have met the Mead family with her. She does a fantastic job with the all-party parliamentary group on sepsis. We announced a plan in January last year as this is a major area where we need to increase knowledge both inside the NHS and among the general public. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago at a meeting organised by the all-party group, we are now looking at putting in place a public information campaign. We need to establish whether that should be about just sepsis, or whether it should be a more general public information campaign to help parents to understand when they need to worry about a fever, which is very common among small children and might be due to reasons other than sepsis, with meningitis being an obvious one. We are doing that detailed work now and we want to get this absolutely right, but I commend her persistence in ensuring that we deliver our commitments in this area.

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP): I welcome the statement from the Secretary of State, particularly with regard to the establishment of medical examiners, which we have had in Scotland since last year. I, too, ask why there is a delay of another two years before that comes on stream. As a doctor, the thing that always seemed obvious to me was what might have made a difference with Shipman. Of all the things that have been enacted, someone reviewing deaths might have made that difference. I do not underestimate the importance of audit, and learning from routine audit, rather than depending on just whistleblowing.

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In Scotland, we had an audit of surgical mortality in the 1990s. The first thing that that showed was the people dying who had not had a sufficiently senior surgeon involved in their case. That was discussed with the profession, and practice changed. Future years identified a situation with a consultant surgeon at the front line and a junior anaesthetist, but that, too, changed. The audit identified the lack of high-dependency nursing units for the sickest patients. I suggest that working with such an audit and the profession, as we have done for coming up to 20 years, would have allowed the evolution of a stronger, safer seven-day emergency service. I again call on the Secretary of State to commit to looking at a surgical approach, the things that are missing—access to scans and radiology—and perhaps more senior review and senior involvement. This is not about junior doctors and it is not blanket.

We also need to look at the ratio of staff. Francis and other research have shown the importance of nursing staff. Staff who do not have a minute to stop and think will make mistakes, and will not have time to report them. We need to make this easy. There must be a culture in which people have the time to minimise mistakes.

I have a final plea. The Secretary of State is offering more support to whistleblowers, but a review and reconciliation for those who have been badly treated in the past might give people more confidence that, if they step up and report something significant, they will not be hung out to dry, as has been the case previously.

Mr Hunt: I contrast the tone of the hon. Lady’s response with that of the shadow Health Secretary. Although I by no means agree with everything she said, she does make some important points.

It is not the case that we have delayed the medical examiners scheme. In the previous Parliament, we had pilots so that we could understand exactly how the examiners would work. That is relevant to her other point about audit, with which I completely agree. One thing that medical examiners will be able to do is to look for unexpected or unexplained patterns in deaths. Obviously, the vast majority of deaths are routine, predictable and expected, but those examiners will be able, looking at audit tools, to identify where there are things to worry about, which is why this is an important next step.

With respect to whistleblowers, I will reflect on what the hon. Lady says. We are trying to eliminate the need for things ever to get to the point where someone has to become a whistleblower. We want to ensure that people are supported to speak out about mistakes they have seen or made and concerns that they have, and that they are confident that they will be listened to. We are publishing a table today about the quality of the reporting culture. Much of the raw data that allow us to rank trusts on the quality of reporting data come from the NHS staff survey, which asks staff how valued they think they are, and how safe and easy it is to raise concerns. That is why this is a big step forward.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and for taking forward so many of the recommendations that were made a year ago in the Public Administration Committee’s report on investigating clinical incidents in

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the NHS. I particularly thank him for implementing the creation of a safe space, which has been a controversial and difficult subject because some people think that this is about hiding stuff, when in fact it is about getting people to speak much more openly and freely. Will he say something about how that will be implemented without primary legislation?

Mr Hunt: I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He and I have talked many times and thought very hard about how we can learn lessons from the air industry. He is one of the people who came to me first to say that if we want to set up an equivalent to the air accidents investigation branch, we need to give people in the healthcare world the same legal protections that others have when they are speaking to that branch, and that is at heart of the statement that I have made to the House today.

The point about safe space is very, very important. This is not about people getting off scot free if they make a terrible mistake. There is no extra protection here for anyone who breaks the law, commits gross negligence or does something utterly irresponsible. Patients still have those protections. What they gain is the comfort that we will get to the truth and learn from mistakes much more quickly. Every single patient and bereaved family says that the most important thing is not money, but making sure that the system learns from what went wrong. We will ensure that we construct the safe space concept, and I do not rule out extending that beyond the investigations of the healthcare safety investigation branch.

Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): In welcoming the statement, may I say that, in my experience on the General Medical Council and on the Health Committee, the biggest cloud that hangs over the culture of non-reporting in the national health service is litigation? Last year it cost the British taxpayer £1.1 billion, £395 million of which went on legal costs alone. Should we not be looking at a no-fault liability scheme inside the national health service so that we can really encourage cultural change?

Mr Hunt: The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that the fear of litigation has a very pernicious effect, which we see across the NHS. Litigation is a huge drag on costs and we are reforming how it works. We have looked at what happens in other countries. In Sweden, for example, the creation of a no-blame culture has had the dramatic impact of reducing maternity and neo-natal injury. I hope that today’s statement is a step towards that, but we will consider other reforms to the litigation process as well.

Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): The Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer), and I had a useful debate this morning in Westminster Hall about clinical negligence cases, and what the Secretary of State has said this afternoon clearly touches on that. It might be that I am being obtuse, but the statement seems to relate to the internal investigation of the poor or mistaken conduct of doctors by the disciplinary system, and not to the resistance to, or the conduct of, clinical negligence cases. I hope I am wrong about that, because we do not want, despite the best of intentions of the Secretary of

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State, as identified in the statement, to make the settlement of just clinical negligence cases more difficult, more expensive and more sclerotic. I read in the papers this morning that there would be a need for a court to give consent to the use of particular information. It might well be that this morning’s trails were inaccurate and do not reflect what the Secretary of State intends, but I wonder whether he could disentangle internal and external reactions to poor conduct.

Mr Hunt: I shall do my best for my right hon. and learned—and eminent—Friend. We do not want to affect the legal rights of anyone who wishes to litigate against the NHS because they feel they have been treated badly. Those rights must remain, and we will protect them, but we want to make it easier to get to the truth of what happened so that we can learn from mistakes. The information uncovered by a healthcare safety investigation branch investigation could not be used in litigation proceedings without a court order. However, my belief is that having those investigations carried out by the branch is quite likely to speed up court processes, because I think it will establish on all sides, in greater likelihood, agreement about what actually happened in any particular situation. I hope that that will be beneficial, but if anyone wants to use the evidence in litigation, they will have to re-gather it, because we are concerned that, if doctors are worried that anything that they say could be used in litigation, they may be hesitant about speaking openly, and that represents the defensive culture that we are trying to change.

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) (LD): I welcome the measures set out in the statement. The Secretary of State will not be surprised to hear that I want to focus on safety in mental health. The statement seems to be quite focused on acute hospitals. At the summit taking place today, will there be a specialist focus on safety in mental health? The Secretary of State will remember that the Government announced last February an ambition to achieve zero suicide, but he will be aware that there has been a significant increase in serious incidents and in the reporting of unexpected deaths and suicides. I do not know where that project has got to, but would he be prepared to meet me to discuss how we can develop the zero-suicide ambition, which has achieved such a reduction in deaths in the city of Detroit in the United States? The same can happen here if we have the same focus and ambition.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. Before the Secretary of State answers that important question, I remind the House that we have a lot of business to get through today. Shorter questions and correspondingly shorter answers would be welcomed by those who are waiting to take part in other debates.

Mr Hunt: As ever, I commend my right hon. Friend’s interest in mental health. May I reassure him that this is very much about what happens in mental health and also the area of learning disabilities? In fact, some of the thoughts were prompted by what happened at Southern Health. It is absolutely vital that we investigate unexpected deaths in mental health as much as we do in physical

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health. The measures we take will go across those areas, and I am more than happy to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss the very laudable aim of zero suicides.

Dr Tania Mathias (Twickenham) (Con): May I applaud the Secretary of State for this culture of safety and learning? Will he consider increasing the use of exit interviews in the NHS? I have worked in the NHS, aid organisations and charities, and the NHS is the only one where I have not had an exit interview. May I suggest that decreasing the use of agency and locum staff, as we hope to do, provides an opportunity to learn from good staff about sharing good practice and avoiding bad practice? I absolutely applaud the world summit on patient safety, and I very much hope the Secretary of State has invited St John of Jerusalem eye hospital, from East Jerusalem. If that was somehow forgotten, please will he ensure that it is invited to the Berlin summit next year?

Mr Hunt: I feel prompted by my hon. Friend’s question to investigate what I am sure is excellent practice at St John of Jerusalem eye hospital. If I may, I will take away her very good point about exit interviews. We also heard a good point about agency staff. Part of the thing that inhibits a learning culture is if a large percentage of staff are in an organisation only on a provisional or temporary basis, rather than being part of regular teams and therefore not being able to transmit lessons learned. That is why we have to deal with the virus of an over-reliance on agency staff in some parts of the NHS.

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): May I gently ask that the Secretary of State, if he is going to list Morecambe Bay in a litany of things to bash the previous Government over the head with, to do so while also acknowledging that the situation continued for some time under his Government and is still taking some time to turn around?

I wholeheartedly welcome the Secretary of State’s focus on patient safety and his overall approach, and I pay tribute again to the Morecambe Bay campaigners, who have done so much to trigger this improvement. However, does he share my concerns about trusts such as Morecambe Bay being forced, for a number of reasons, including for safety, to use a large number of agency staff, and about the difficulty in changing culture when that staffing situation persists?

Mr Hunt: Let me commend the staff at Morecambe Bay, who have been through a very difficult patch. The trust has now exited special measures, which is a very exciting step for the trust, and there has been a huge amount of work to make that possible. It feels to me that they really have turned a corner at Morecambe Bay, and we should support the staff, who have done a great job in that respect.

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about agency staff. In particular, it is challenging to get permanent recruitment to more geographically isolated places—we find that that is a problem not just at Morecambe Bay, but across the country. However, sometimes, it can be false comfort to get in large numbers of agency staff, as not only are they extremely expensive, but they cannot offer the continuity of care that is at the heart of a safer culture, so we have to find better ways to support places such as Morecambe Bay further to improve safety.

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David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a range of initiatives, including the independent healthcare safety investigation branch, but I remind him that some of the problems that we face are staring him in the face, not least the difficulties in Leicestershire with the ambulance service. I thank the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer), for seeing the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) and me to discuss the problems that occur when 15 out of 25 ambulances in the county are queuing to discharge patients. The Under-Secretary talked about bringing in troubleshooters to resolve problems. Will the Secretary of State enlighten the House as to what he proposes to do about these very evident problems? They require little investigation; they require action.

Mr Hunt: We do have a system-wide problem in Leicestershire and we are looking into it urgently. I thank my hon. Friend for raising the issue. He is absolutely right that when we talk about safety and being open about mistakes, that has to apply to the ambulance service as much as to every other part of the NHS.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): May I also welcome the Secretary of State’s statement to the House? In particular, I welcome the commitment to building a safer, seven-day NHS. In Northern Ireland, we have just announced 1,200 new nurses, 300 new professionals, extra money for autism and mental health care and, just this week, extra money to address waiting lists to build a safer, seven-day NHS—that is what we want.

The Secretary of State referred to learning from mistakes, the need for an extension of trusts’ disciplinary procedures, openness to learning and a charter for openness and transparency. What discussions has he had with the Northern Ireland Assembly Minister, Simon Hamilton, about ensuring that that system can be replicated in Northern Ireland and by regional Assemblies and Administrations across the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Mr Hunt: My colleague, the hospitals Minister, will have those discussions with the Northern Ireland Health Minister. However, the hon. Gentleman is right that if we are going to have a learning culture, it needs to be across the UK, not just in England. That is why I welcome the discussions we have with the Scottish NHS and the Welsh NHS. There are things that we can learn from each other, and we should be very open-minded in doing so.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): We must all strive to improve safety and quality in the NHS, but the Health Foundation report that the Secretary of State referred to stated that 40% of patients said there were too few nurses to care for them—this is three years after the Francis report. The Government say that the NHS must learn more, but what are they doing to learn from the inquiries that have been held?

Mr Hunt: Well, quite a lot. For example, we have increased the number of nurses by more than 10,000 since the Francis report was published, to ensure that we do not have a problem with safety on our wards. We recognise that it is incredibly important not to have short-staffed wards, and we are making more reforms in

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this Parliament to ensure that we recruit even more nurses. It would be good to have some support from Labour on that.

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement, although I hope that it draws on experience from other healthcare economies, as well as on the aerospace sector. When things go wrong, it is right that the NHS is frank about it and, where necessary, compensates people for what may be long-term management issues. Currently, negligence settlements are based on provision in the private sector and do not necessarily anticipate that people will be treated and managed in the NHS, which means that the service effectively pays twice for mistakes. As the Secretary of State seeks to close the Simon Stevens spending gap, perhaps he will reflect on that. I would be grateful if he could say to what extent he thinks that excessive negligence claims are influenced by the rather perverse way in which they are currently calculated.

Mr Hunt: Someone looking at our current system independently might say that some things are difficult to understand, including the point raised by my hon. Friend and the fact that we tend to give bigger awards to wealthier families because we sometimes take into account family incomes when we make them. We are considering that area, but we are cautious about reducing the legal rights of patients to secure a fair settlement when something has gone wrong. In the end, this is about doing the right thing for patients, and the most effective way of reducing large litigation bills—I know my hon. Friend will agree with this—is to stop harm happening in the first place, and that is what today is about.

Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): If anybody should be learning from mistakes in the health service, it is the Secretary of State for Health. I have been down to the picket line today, as I have on every occasion, and I can tell him that it is hardening. There are more people on that picket line down at St Thomas’ today than I have seen in all the months since the strike began. I am a bit of an expert on picket lines; I know what it is like. Quite frankly, the biggest mistake that the Secretary of State has made is to think that he can get away with imposing a seven-day week on hospital doctors and everybody else who works in the health service, because he wants to avoid proper premium payments. When I worked in the coal mines, miners got double pay on Sundays, and they got time and a half all day Saturday. It is time he recognised that not just hospital doctors but nurses, radiologists and all the others who will have to work a seven-day week should be paid the proper money. Otherwise, pack the job in, and then he’ll be doing a service to the whole national health service.

Mr Hunt: Under our proposals, doctors will receive higher premium rates than lower paid nurses, paramedics and healthcare assistants. I thought the hon. Gentleman campaigned for the lower paid! The day that I stop this job will be the day that I stop doing the right thing for patients. He has constituents who need a seven-day NHS, as do I, and this Government will be there for them and will do the right thing.

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Maria Caulfield (Lewes) (Con): I congratulate the Secretary of State on his statement this afternoon, and welcome the culture change that he is introducing to the NHS. My experience of working in the NHS under a number of Governments over the past 20 years was that when mistakes happened, a scapegoat was identified and it was thought that the problem was dealt with. That is why people were reluctant to report problems, but often it is not one individual but a system of failure. We need to learn from that, so I welcome the Secretary of State’s comments. Relatives and patients have said to me that they do not want just to identify the problem; they want to ensure that it never happens again, which is exactly what my right hon. Friend said. I chaired a primary care seminar this morning with GPs, doctors, nurses and pharmacists—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I am sure that the hon. Lady will quickly come to her question, or we will run out of time.

Maria Caulfield: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. People are fed up with the NHS being talked down by Labour Members, and there was a plea to showcase the good work that is taking place in our NHS today.

Mr Hunt: It is so good to have someone with nursing experience in the House, and I hope that my hon. Friend will make an important contribution for many years to come. She knows what it is like on the front line, and why it is important to get this culture change. She also knows how important it is not to run down the NHS, which is doing extremely well.

Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) (Lab): Last week I received an email that was frankly heartbreaking. My constituent’s 84-year-old father, a proud and dignified man, was admitted to hospital with symptoms of a stroke, and he had to wait for 14 hours for a bed. She went to visit him later that day and found him in bed wearing clothes on only his top half. He needed the toilet, and she was given a bottle to help him urinate.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sure that the hon. Lady will quickly come to her question.

Paula Sherriff: That was no dignified way to treat that man. Will the Secretary of State agree to an urgent investigation into safe staffing levels at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, because the nursing staff told my constituent that they did not have time to fulfil her father’s basic nursing needs?

Mr Hunt: I am more than happy to look into that case, which is exactly the kind of thing that we are trying to stop with the measures we are bringing forward today.

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on once again ensuring that patient healthcare and outcomes are at the forefront of his thinking, and that of professional health service workers who do such a brave job and can sometimes be caught in the crossfire. Does he agree that comments from people on the front line supporting the doctors strike—such as Mr Usman Ahmed, who started a post on Facebook by saying:

“I’ve always hated the Conservatives—a complete and utter bunch of…”;

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I shall leave it there as I would not like to offend you, Madam Deputy Speaker—show that they do not care about healthcare and are more interested in their own political gain?

Mr Hunt: This, I am afraid, is the problem with some elements in the BMA, which are putting politics ahead of patients. As we have heard today, that is the problem in the Labour party as well.

Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op): Action on Sir Robert Francis’s “Freedom to Speak up” review is very welcome. There are so many cases I could cite, but when a senior junior doctor reported unsafe levels of care in an intensive therapy unit, he was subject to unacceptable behaviour such as bullying and blacklisting, and now can only work as a locum. When he wrote to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State refused to engage, listen and learn from his experience. Learning cultures have to start at the top with the Secretary of State. Will he set out how he will address retrospective cases of whistleblowing when people have been subject to discrimination?

Mr Hunt: I hope that the hon. Lady is not quoting selectively from my reply to the person concerned, because when people raise issues of patient safety with me, I usually refer them to the CQC, which is able to give a proper reply. I would be very surprised if I had not done that in this case. Retrospective cases are particularly difficult, and much as we want to help, it is difficult constitutionally to unpick decisions made by courts. We are trying to separate employment grievances from safety grievances and make that the way that we solve these difficult situations.

Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): Like many MPs, I have come across cases where this approach would help enormously, and I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. The same CQC report that praised staff and clinicians at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust for their good and outstanding care, also raised concerns about the management and safety at the hospitals. That was partly a result of too many interim managers, and a lack of ability to address and learn from mistakes made. I urge the Secretary of State to do everything in his power to work with the relevant organisations to put long-term permanent management in place at that trust, so that we take things forward and make our patients safer.

Mr Hunt: My hon. Friend speaks very wisely. Let me say that one thing that has been a mistake of successive Governments is a short-termist approach to NHS managers. We ourselves have looked for a scapegoat when something has gone wrong—an A&E target missed or whatever—and not backed people making long-term transformations. That is something we need to think hard about.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and for all the work he has done on this. I pay tribute to all those who have campaigned to bring patient safety to the fore, many from tragic experiences that they have had. What work is being done to ensure that medical schools and nursing schools have patient safety right there on the curriculum?

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Mr Hunt: We have looked at the curriculum very carefully. In particular, we want to make sure that people understand their responsibilities to speak out if they see mistakes or things going wrong, and to help people to understand that this may not be the prevailing culture in the hospital they go to. We are looking to a new generation of doctors and nurses to help us in changing the culture for the better.

Amanda Milling (Cannock Chase) (Con): I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Having met the parents, he will be aware of the tragic death of three-year-old Jonnie Meek at Stafford hospital. They have been looking for answers to their questions for some time. Will he confirm that the new healthcare safety investigation branch he has announced today will give families like Jonnie’s the opportunity to find the answers they have been looking for much more quickly?

Mr Hunt: I thank my hon. Friend for her support for Jonnie’s parents. This is a very sad case. The independent investigator in the case talked about the closed culture he encountered at two different trusts. Indeed, that is a very good example of the change in culture we need. I have worked with them. I hope we can secure a second inquest into Jonnie’s death, so we can get to the truth. I am afraid it will be too late, but we want to get there eventually.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): As the Secretary of State is aware, my local clinical commissioning group starts a 14-week consultation next Wednesday on proposals to downgrade A&E at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. Does he agree that patient safety must be the priority in those decisions, not the ruinous PFI deal signed by Halifax hospital in 1998, which is the backdrop to these appalling plans?

Mr Hunt: No one fights harder for his constituents on healthcare matters than my hon. Friend, and I commend him for that. The process he talks about will be led by clinicians. He is absolutely right that patient safety must be of paramount importance.

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Will Quince (Colchester) (Con): My right hon. Friend is aware that we have one of the worst stillbirth rates in the developed world. Every stillbirth is a tragedy, and with more than 3,600 a year we must do all we can to avoid them, especially when half are preventable. I am co-chair of the new all-party group on baby loss. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is only by looking at every single stillbirth and learning the lessons from them that we can get that number down by 20% by the end of this Parliament and by half by 2030?

Mr Hunt: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I thank him for his work in this area. Maternity—stillbirths, neonatal deaths, neonatal injuries and maternal deaths—is the area where I hope we make the most rapid early progress in developing this new learning culture. There is so much to be gained. We can be the best in the world, but the truth is that we are a long way down international league tables in this area. None of us want that for the NHS. There is a real commitment to turn that around and I thank him for his support.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): The prize for perseverance and patience goes to Mr Mark Spencer.

Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con): I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker, even if my knees are not.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on providing a protected space for doctors, so they will be able to be honest and upfront when things go wrong, and on striking the right balance so that relatives and people who suffer wrongs in the NHS get to the bottom of what went wrong, why it went wrong and why it will not happen again.

Mr Hunt: I thank my hon. Friend. That is the heart of what we want to do. He of course has been very closely involved in the improvements we are trying to make at his local trust. If his knees are in pain, I can recommend a very good GP surgery in his constituency, one he very kindly showed me during the election campaign.

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Point of Order

2.35 pm

Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder if you can help to clarify an outstanding issue from today’s urgent question. In the Head of Government statement, which of course was issued in the name of our Prime Minister, it says very clearly:

“to accelerate the implementation of the visa liberalisation roadmap with all member states with a view to lifting visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016”.

In the House earlier today, the Minister for Europe said that this did not apply to the United Kingdom. It cannot apply to all states and not the United Kingdom. One of the versions must be incorrect. Through your good offices, Madam Deputy Speaker, I wonder whether we might get a written clarification from the Government as to which of these events in question is the truth.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): The House knows and the right hon. Gentleman knows that I am not responsible for the content of the statement made earlier today by the Minister. The Chair is, however, responsible for making sure that Members on the Back Benches have full and satisfactory answers from Ministers. I am quite certain that those on the Treasury Bench will have taken note of what the right hon. Gentleman has said and will act accordingly.

Bill Presented

Laser Pens (Regulation of Sale, Ownership and Usage) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Rehman Chishti, supported by Maggie Throup, David Mackintosh, Mr Nigel Dodds, Gordon Henderson, Kelly Tolhurst, Paul Flynn, Dr Julian Lewis, Sir Gerald Howarth, Martin Vickers and Dr Tania Mathias, presented a Bill to make the sale, ownership and use of portable laser emitting devices with output power of more than 1 milliwatt unlawful in certain circumstances; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 April 2016, and to be printed (Bill 150).

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Criminal Offences (Misuse of Digital Technologies and Services) (Consolidation) Bill

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

2.36 pm

Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to consolidate offences relating to the misuse of digital devices, technologies, systems and services for the purposes of committing or preparing to commit or aiding, abetting, facilitating or concealing the commission of a crime or disposal of the proceeds of a crime; to make provision reflecting technological advancements, including the training of criminal justice personnel; to establish a duty for the Secretary of State to provide advice and guidance to the digital and telecommunications services industry aimed at reducing the misuse of digital technologies for criminal purposes; and for connected purposes.

There has been an unprecedented rise in crime assisted by digital technology over the past decade. Just as so many of us now spend so many of our waking hours in cyberspace, so too has organised crime found new territory in which to operate. Abusers have found new means to torment their victims, often under the veil of anonymity. Charities, agencies and police involved in tackling stalking and harassment, hate crimes and abuse are only too aware that criminals and abusers are using technology to target victims. The challenge here is to identify what is criminal behaviour and to respond appropriately.

Victims of cyber-abuse often do not turn to the police, either because they are unaware that an offence has been committed or because they do not believe that the police will react. The College of Policing estimates that half of all crimes reported to front-line officers has a cyber element. Police experts state that there are as many as 7 million online frauds a year and 3 million other online crimes. Very many of these go unreported.

The police lead on the fight against digital crime. The chief constable of Essex, Stephen Kavanagh, warns that the levels of abuse on the internet are now at unexpected levels, and that the police are at risk of being “swamped”. Sometimes police response to victims’ complaints is ambiguous, yet if these are crimes—and they are—an ambiguous response to them is not a satisfactory solution. Where are the dividing lines between hissy teenagers letting off steam and abusive hate mail? What are the indicators that flag up the likelihood of aggressive words in digital format leading to violent action in the physical world? What as a society do we believe should be treated as criminal behaviour, and what is merely the unfortunate reflection of individuals’ private thoughts laid out for the world to retweet at leisure? And how on earth do the police deal with all that?

The police, many of whom, particularly senior officers, were trained to deal with 20th-century crimes, now find themselves in the 21st century amid a maelstrom of mass information and breakneck technological change—the bobby on his bicycle, out on the internet highway, policing the dark web with a flashlight and an Alsatian.

The purpose of this Bill is to call on the Attorney General and the Solicitor General to undertake a review of all relevant legislation and to consolidate powers contained in a list of statutes into a single Bill. At

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present, prosecution can be initiated by using a confusing array of criminal legislation. I thank Harry Fletcher of Digital-Trust for his considerable and thorough work on this Bill, which involved seeking out the relevant sections of more than 30 Acts, including one dating from the 19th century. It is evident that the existing provision is fragmentary and inadequate, and that that in itself acts as a hindrance, allowing abuse to continue unchecked.

It is important to understand that the threshold set for the prosecution of hate crimes over the internet is extremely high. That is understandable, yet the way in which that threshold is interpreted varies from police force to police force across the country, and many incidents are not prosecuted. Consolidating that and other statutes will bring much-needed clarity.

The requirement for additional police training will address the situation where only 7,500 police officers out of a total of 100,000 in England and Wales are trained to investigate digital crime. The Bill also updates laws on surveillance, monitoring and abusive content. It becomes a clear offence repeatedly to locate, listen to or watch an individual by means of digital technology without legitimate reason. It will be illegal to install spyware or webcams without good reason. It becomes an offence to make multiple images of a person unless it is in the public interest so to do. It becomes an offence repeatedly to order goods or services for a person if it causes distress or anxiety. Posting images without the subject’s permission and the posting of messages that are discriminatory or threatening, or that cause distress or anxiety, would become offences.

The Bill also places additional responsibilities on social media platform providers and the industry as a whole to respect and abide by a code of professional standards; to conduct impact assessments in respect of customers; to block offensive social media postings and postings inciting violence; and to co-operate with and inform the police in the event of wrongdoing.

I am aware that this is something of a cliché, but it is difficult to avoid stating the obvious fact that this is a Bill whose time has come. It is evident from the Bill’s cross-party support, for which I am very grateful, that parliamentarians from across the House feel that legislation in relation to cybercrime and cyber-abuse must be fit for purpose, and that the recourse available at present to police and prosecutors does not facilitate their work.

That ready response springs from our common experiences. MPs have been the subject of violent online threats. People come to our surgeries reporting abuse and bullying. We read about people in the public eye, including footballers and celebrities, and the unacceptable abuse some of them receive on Twitter and Facebook. Teaching unions, too, are concerned at the abuse their members face.

The campaigning organisation Kick It Out works with football clubs and fans to tackle all forms of discrimination. It deals with abuse relating to race, sexual orientation, gender, faith and disability, and 42% of incidents reported to Kick It Out occurred on social media.

I have had a mother at a constituency surgery describing one of her children being targeted by means of a gaming console online chatroom. She was aware that that was possible over the internet, but assumed that, in

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gaming, her daughter would be talking to other children and that gaming chatrooms were safe spaces. It was her son who realised that whoever was talking to his sister was not genuine.

We should not underestimate the scale of the issues at stake: digital crime can ruin lives. On 26 February, Women’s Aid hosted a conference entitled, “He’s watching you”, which focused on revenge pornography, as well as the many ways in which perpetrators of domestic violence can further their abuse by tormenting their victims over the internet. As Polly Neate, chief executive officer of Women’s Aid, said in that conference:

“There’s not a real world and a digital world. We exist online in a real way”.

It is often said that social media makes the world seem smaller. For victims of online abuse and harassment, it can make it feel like that world is closing in on them, like there is no escape. For victims of domestic violence, too, online abuse can be overwhelming. A Women’s Aid survey of more than 700 survivors of online abuse found that in 85% of cases the online abuse was part of a wider pattern of abuse that occurred on the internet and in real life. Perpetrators will use any means necessary to control and intimidate their victims.

And the danger is very real. A third of online threats of violence are then carried out. Abuse tends to escalate after a relationship ends, which means that victims are in even greater danger once their perpetrators embark on online abuse. Criminal justice professionals, and society more generally, have to take those threats seriously. If we do not, more people will have their lives destroyed.

I am glad to say that some change is already afoot. Indeed, it was welcome that last week the Crown Prosecution Service announced new guidelines for prosecutors of certain elements of social media abuse. A consultation has been launched about the guidelines, which advise lawyers to prosecute criminals who use fake online aliases to harass victims. The guidelines acknowledge that such abusers can pose as their victims online in order to damage reputations. They offer guidance on how to interpret existing laws, particularly in the light of newer offences such as coercive control and revenge pornography.

It is, of course, welcome to see change starting to take root, but those guidelines are not a panacea. Indeed, they underline the need for consolidating the sheer number of statutes that can be used by prosecutors. I believe that my Bill would go a long way towards tackling this problem, and that it will send a clear signal—to perpetrators and victims alike—that as a society we take these crimes seriously.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That Liz Saville Roberts, Mr Graham Allen, Sir David Amess, Sir Edward Garnier, Mrs Cheryl Gillan, Mr David Lammy, Tim Loughton, Ms Margaret Ritchie, Mr Barry Sheerman, Hywel Williams, Corri Wilson and Dr Sarah Wollaston present the Bill.

Liz Saville Roberts accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on 11 March, and to be printed (Bill 151).

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Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is obvious that the next item of business is going to be enormously popular. Many Members will try to speak and, indeed, there is great public interest in it. I thought you would be interested to know that the Procedure Committee is conducting an inquiry into whether to give you more power to extend debates. It seems ridiculous that that is entirely in the control of the Government. For instance, on Monday we left early after a Second Reading debate, while today many hon. Members will either not be able to speak or have to give very short speeches. I thought you would like to know that, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: Well, it is always useful to have a bit of information. I greatly look forward to the result of the deliberations of the Procedure Committee, of which I think the hon. Gentleman is himself a distinguished ornament. If there are no further points of order, we shall now proceed.

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Enterprise Bill [Lords]

[2ndAllocated Day]

Further consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee.

Mr Speaker: As I informed the House yesterday, my provisional certificate, based on changes made in Committee and expected Government amendments tabled for Report stage, is available in the Vote Office and on the Bills before Parliament website.

At the end of the Report stage on a Bill, I am required to consider the Bill as amended on Report for certification. At that point—later today—I will issue my final certificate.

Clause 33

Extended Sunday opening hours and Sunday working

2.50 pm

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): I beg to move amendment 1, in page 50, line 33, leave out subsections (1) to (4).

Mr Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 19, in page 51, leave out lines 3 to 13 and insert—

2A (1) The Sunday trading authority for an area may publish a notice (a “consent notice”) in accordance with this paragraph providing for large shops in tourist zones (as defined in sub-paragraph (2)) in the authority’s area to be permitted to do either or both of the following—

(a) to open on Sundays falling between 21 March and 1 October and on the three Sundays before Christmas Day for a continuous period of whatever number of hours is specified in the notice (in addition to the continuous period of six hours mentioned in paragraph 2(3)),

(b) to open on Sundays falling between 21 March and 1 October and on the three Sundays before Christmas Day at specified times beginning earlier than, or ending later than, the times mentioned in paragraph 2(3).

(2) A consent notice published by a Sunday trading authority may only apply in relation to those parts of the authority’s area that is a “tourist zone” which is defined as—

(a) a retail area where tourists from outside the United Kingdom are responsible for a significant proportion of the retail sales, or

(b) a leisure and retail area, such as a coastal resort, which a significant number of tourists from outside the local authority area visit

and in deciding what is significant in either case the local authority shall have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State.”

This amendment would allow the relaxation in Sunday opening hours for larger shops to apply between Easter and the end of September and before Christmas to areas that attract significant numbers of tourists, such as central London and coastal resorts.

Government amendments 2, 13 and 14.

Mr Burrowes: Amendment 1 is in my name and those of 24 of my right hon. and hon. Friends, as well as hon. Members from across the House. I think seven different parties have signed up to the amendment. I could not quite convince the UK Independence Party Member to

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unite with me on the amendment, although I may continue to try to persuade him if he attends the debate. Nevertheless, there is significant cross-party support for the amendment.

In many ways, I would prefer not to be here; I am sorry that we have to deal with this issue. We are having to do so not least because the proper procedure has not been followed, but also because of the issue of substance around Sunday trading. Some hon. Members will remember debates on the matter in the ’90s and the ’80s, which took up a considerable amount of the House’s time and attention. The previous time the matter came before the House, it took some two years of debate to reach the compromise that we reached. We have some three hours today either to unpick that settlement or, as I seek to do in the amendment, to delete the Government’s provisions.

Let us remind ourselves of what the Bill is about, and how Sunday trading fits into it. As I understand it, when it first came to the House, the Bill’s aims were clear. They were to

“make sure that Britain is the best place in Europe to start and grow a business and that people who work hard have the opportunity to succeed”

and to

“cut red tape for business, encourage investment in skills, and make it easier for small firms to resolve payment disputes by setting up a Small Business Commissioner”.

So say all of us, or certainly those of us on the Government Benches. The Bill is important, and I support it up to the point of its conclusion about Sunday trading.

Sir Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Will my hon. Friend tell us why he is opposed to what the Government are seeking to do, which, as I understand it, is permissive, not mandatory?

Mr Burrowes: If my right hon. Friend will be patient, the purpose of my speech is to explain the reasons why I oppose the Government. We need to look at where the Government are taking us, even though they are trying to get there through a permissive, devolutionary approach. It is based on the premise that the deregulation of Sunday trading is good for small businesses, families and workers. We need to look at that premise. Deregulation is a one-way valve that local authorities would have the option of taking. I know that many Conservative Members are pure localists, who might want the decision about whether to restrict or deregulate Sunday trading to be a purely local one. The Government make the case that this is good for small businesses, but I object to that. I want to look at the way in which the Government have approached the question and carried out the consultation.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for his speech and his strong leadership on the matter. Does he agree that the Government’s case would be more compelling had they abided by the undertaking that the Minister has twice given to publish the impact assessment, which we are led to believe is positive and favourable? So far, the Government have not done so.

Mr Burrowes: The impact assessment has been published today. That is important. The Bill has already received some scrutiny in Committee. The Sunday trading proposals were introduced in Committee; they were not in the Bill on Second Reading. The Bill started not in this place

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but in the House of Lords. Therefore, the Sunday trading measure received no scrutiny in any of the stages in the House of Lords.

Following the consultation, we were promised that the impact assessment would be published, as we would expect with any measure, not least such an important and controversial one. The impact assessment was published today, and it includes several paragraphs about the family test, for which I and others have asked for some time. Back in October, I asked when the family impact test would be published, and I was told that it would be published before the Committee stage. In February, I asked again when it would be published, and I was told that it would be published alongside the Government’s consultation response. That did not happen. After that, I was told that it would be published shortly. It has been published today. I do not think that is acceptable.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his consistency on this subject. He stood for election in May. He will have known that some Conservative Members would have liked to bring forward such a measure. He must have been reassured that it was not in the Conservative manifesto. As a democrat, how would he be able to face his constituents if he had chosen to vote for the measure, given that his views are so well known and that the Conservative party had not put it in their manifesto?

Mr Burrowes: I am a lawyer by profession, and I believe that the hon. Gentleman has asked me a leading question. Plainly, the measure was not in the manifesto. Not only that, but the Prime Minister confirmed on 20 April 2015, in the middle of the campaign, in a letter to the “Keep Sunday Special” campaign:

“I can assure you that we have no current plans to relax the Sunday trading laws. We believe that the current system provides a reasonable balance between those who wish to see more opportunity to shop in large stores on a Sunday, and those who would like to see further restrictions.”

That pretty much sums up my position, on which I have been consistent. The Prime Minister appeared to share my position back in April.

Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con): I hope that my hon. Friend knows that I have enormous respect for him and for his campaigns on many issues, on which I have worked with him, but does he not agree that we should just trust our constituents to make up their own minds? In life, we all have to find our own balance, and we are all capable of deciding whether we work or shop on a Sunday. That is not the most complicated decision that our constituents will make in their lives. Will not my hon. Friend trust his constituents to make wise decisions for themselves and their families?

Mr Burrowes: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I saw that “but” coming. We have a job to do in Parliament. We do not simply devolve every decision out to our constituents. We should listen to our constituents. I am not sure whether he has looked at his mailbag, but I have looked at mine, and many shop workers, faith groups and others have asked me, “Why are we doing this? Why are we trying to unpick something that is fairly settled, even if it is not perfect?” I have listened to my constituents. We have important principles as well. The Sunday trading arrangement is complex,

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and it is our duty to look at it carefully, to consult widely and to scrutinise it fairly. None of those things has happened to the extent that they did in the ’90s and ’80s. It should not surprise us that there is a lot of cross-party concern. I would agree with my hon. Friend if this were a wholly devolving measure, but it is not. It is based on a principle that we would have to sign up to.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Burrowes: In a moment. When we make this decision here in Parliament, everyone who votes against amendment 1 will have to agree with the premise that deregulation is good for businesses, families and workers. Members have to make this decision; we cannot simply devolve it to local authorities.

That is the premise of the case that the Government are making today.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Burrowes: I will give way to my constituency neighbour.

Joan Ryan (Enfield North) (Lab): I am pleased to be a signatory to the amendment tabled by the hon. Gentleman, who is my neighbour, and to support him. As I am sure he knows, some 49% of retail workers surveyed are parents or carers, and their Sunday is special to them. In relation to what has been said about trusting our constituents to make their own decision to work, I am sure my neighbour knows that even in workplaces that have trade union reps to support members, many staff are pressured into not using the Sunday opt-out. In fact, something like a third of shop workers are pressured into working on Sundays, or they will have their working hours cut.

Mr Burrowes: I am grateful to the right hon. Lady, who is included in the unholy alliance that, as I have mentioned, has come together on my amendment. She makes a very good and important point. We may have a choice about whether to go to church, shop or spend time with our families. We need to be a voice for people who do not have such a choice, perhaps because of caring or work responsibilities. We need to be very careful about imposing further requirements or obligations on them. That is important, and it is why we suggested having a family impact test. The impact assessment has been published today. The Government twice in parliamentary answers promised me they would do that. We must take the impact on families seriously, as the right hon. Lady says.

3 pm

Mr Jim Cunningham: There is another facet to this issue. One the one hand, the Government say that they are trying to save high streets, but on the other hand, the Bill will only strengthen the supermarkets and will therefore have an effect on high streets. Worse still, employers have ways to force workers to work extra hours on a Sunday. All those who have ever worked in industry know the tricks.

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Mr Burrowes: I will come on to that point. The Government have made the case that the Bill will support high streets and deal with the challenges of online shopping and the like. However, to go back to the campaign, when my hon. Friends and other Members were campaigning up and down their high streets—my constituency is full of high streets, like many other constituencies—was this mentioned to them? I do not remember that happening. In fact, only one large outlet, Asda, mentioned it. The rest did not once say that the way to rebuild and regenerate high streets was to deregulate Sunday trading. In fact, they wanted business rates, car parking and things such as that to be sorted out.

I do not need to rely only on what my constituents are saying. Let me look at the Government’s review, which was a proper review, into how we can regenerate and improve the high street. If we page through that substantial review, we will not see a big case being made that the one way to regenerate the high street is to deregulate shopping hours for large shops. That will threaten small businesses.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Burrowes: Let me take my pick. I give way to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne).

Andrew Gwynne: Is it not misleading for the Government to describe this as a devolution measure? Is it not simply a fact that the moment one council adopts these powers, every neighbouring council will be forced to follow suit?

Jim McMahon rose

Mr Burrowes: Was that the hon. Gentleman’s point as well? I give way to him.

Jim McMahon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene, because this follows on smoothly from the previous intervention. Before Christmas, I was a member of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which the Government consulted on the devolution of Sunday trading powers. I can categorically say that those powers were not asked for or requested; they were forced on that body.

Mr Burrowes: There will be the inevitable domino effect of a race to the bottom if local authorities get hold of the powers. We should not just see this as a matter that can be left to local authorities. The Government have said that this provision is good for high streets, businesses, shop workers and families.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Burrowes: I will carry on for a moment.

The Government are making the case for devolving such powers and they must be held to account for it—it is for them to make that case—but the reality is that the substance of their case does not meet the high threshold required to justify unpicking the complicated Sunday trading laws.

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Several hon. Members rose

Mr Burrowes: I will give way to a Member on the Conservative Benches.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): I am sure that those who know my hon. Friend would agree that it is very rare for him to be in any sort of unholy alliance. I am very much of the view that the compromise made 30 years ago has worked fairly well. Does he not recognise that there is no sense of imposition? As my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) rightly pointed out, the approach is a permissive one. In my constituency, which I accept is a relatively exceptional one in the centre of a city, there would certainly be a demand, particularly during times when we have a high number of tourists, for local authorities to give such permission, but that would be up to local authorities to manage. This is quite a good compromise, given the great changes that have taken place in shopping patterns in the past 30 years, not least with the internet.

Mr Burrowes: I hear that point. Throughout this process, I have been open to such a debate, and I know that the large shops in the west end, such as Harrods in Knightsbridge, have made a strong case for opening for longer for tourists. That is part of the Government’s economic case, but I do not think it is substantial enough. It is based around the New West End Company model in particular. However, research by Oxford Economics and others shows that we must look at the economic impact more widely, not simply at the benefits for larger businesses. Hon. Friends and hon. Members know that we should not just listen to big business; we are concerned about shop workers and small businesses, and it is important to say that the impact on them should not be underestimated.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Burrowes: I give way to a new face and a new voice.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): I am not that new. Can my hon. Friend knock on the head the point that Conservative Members are making about permission? The issue is not about the fact that permission is given; it is about who will exercise that permission. The permission will be exercised by local authorities, but do individual shop workers who wish to run their own store six or seven days a week have such a right of permission?

Mr Burrowes: That is an important point. This is not simply about providing local councils with such powers, because our duty goes much further. We need to look further than simply at whether councils want this or not—whether 100, 200 or more councils want it. We need to look at what businesses and shop workers want.

On the question of imposition, in September, a survey of 10,000 shop workers showed that 91% of them do not want to work more on a Sunday. The current six-hour restriction is important to them because, as they say, Sunday evening is often their only guaranteed “family time”, especially if they have children at school in the week or partners who work weekdays. Not so many staff are required under the current regime—usually,

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there is a single shift—so most staff are able to work a Sunday rota with some Sundays off. We must look at the imposition on shop workers and businesses.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman’s arguments are making a very good introduction to this debate. I understand that some chief executives of larger stores, such as Sainsbury’s and John Lewis, are expressing their concerns to the Prime Minister about this issue. In relation to that survey, Sainsbury’s has quite rightly questioned whether there is an appetite among consumers or retail staff for Sunday working. As I hope the hon. Gentleman agrees, Conservative Members should not assume the opt-out means anything, because most retail staff say it is impossible to use it because employers find ways to make them suffer if they try to opt out of Sunday working.

Mr Burrowes: Yes, that is true. We should not tar all large retailers with the same brush. I think Tesco has also expressed concern. Some of them have no doubt got a commercial interest—they may have more convenience stores on high streets than other large retailers—but they share the concern that the Government’s devolutionary approach is not so practical for larger businesses, given that there are issues in relation to distribution centres and dealing with waste recycling. This will make things more complicated for them. In essence, the Bill is about cutting down on red tape and about deregulation, but this would mean a move in the opposite direction for such businesses.

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab) rose

Mr Burrowes: When I get into my speech, I will come on to the protections for shop workers, but before I do that, I give way to my near neighbour.

Mr Lammy: As my constituency neighbour, the hon. Gentleman will remember walking down high streets such as mine and through parts of Enfield town after the riots back in 2011. Not one local shopkeeper whose shop had been ransacked said that devolving power in such a way—allowing big retailers to open for even longer on Sundays—would help their business. Such businesses are struggling anyway, and this sort of action will only make that worse.

Is the hon. Gentleman concerned about the definition of “tourist”? Can he explain what a tourist is? Am I a tourist when I go to Enfield, Southgate to shop?

Mr Burrowes: The issue about tourists is not for me. I will leave my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs Spelman) to make such a case in relation to her amendment 19.

I want to turn to the substance of the issue, which is first of all about process. This is a controversial matter. No one who has been around for a while and who has listened to people’s concerns will deny that it is controversial. That is plainly the case given that it divides opinions so much in this House.

Mr Jackson: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Burrowes: I want to make some progress.

Normally, as I understand it, the guidance for a Government consultation on a controversial matter is to allocate a full 12-week period for the consultation.

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However, the consultation that has led to where we are now not only lasted just six weeks, but happened right in the middle of the summer holidays at the start of August. This particularly important consultation ran for two weeks in the central period of the holidays. Why did that happen? Was there a rush to get the measure on the statute book immediately? The Government took some five months to respond to that rushed consultation, which nevertheless managed to generate some 7,000 responses, which is extraordinary, given the time constraints. If such a controversial measure elicited that number of responses, all parliamentarians must ask why it did not get the full scrutiny that it deserved in both Houses. There was an attempt to tack it on to the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, and now it has been tacked on to the Enterprise Bill, after that has already been through the Lords. Someone who was cynical or suspicious might say that that limits the scrutiny of an important measure.

These are not just my concerns. When we last had the opportunity to discuss this matter, which was during the passage of the Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Bill in 2012, it did receive full scrutiny. The then Minister, Lord Sassoon, underlined the temporary nature of the proposed change. As many hon. Members have said, we had assurances from the Government that that was not a precursor to a further deregulatory move. Lord Sassoon also gave an assurance that there would be full parliamentary debate if there were ever another Sunday trading legislative proposal, but we have not had that. Unfortunately, that promise has not been kept. That is to the detriment of us all, as it would have allowed us to consider matters such as tourist zones and pilot areas, about which we will probably hear later. All those aspects need time for proper scrutiny.

Mr Jackson: Will my hon. Friend nail the myth that the measure is designed to assist town centre retail trade? Some 53% of local authority chief executives said that they would use the new liberalisation to boost out-of-town shopping centres, but that cannot be what many hon. Members want.

Mr Burrowes: Indeed. The knock-on effects of the measure need careful thought and attention.

The consultation showed that 76% of local authorities, large and medium-sized business respondents and business representative organisations were in favour of the proposals, but while the Government told us that those organisations and local authorities were in favour, they failed to tell us about the proportion for individual responses. We all have a right to respond individually to Government consultations. We all have a voice. It is not just the big corporate bodies whose response counts.

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and I duplicated a question to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to ask what number and what proportion of respondents to the Department’s consultation published on 5 August responded yes and no—it is a simple question. The first question in the consultation asked whether people were in favour of the proposal, so surely it is possible to publish the number of respondents. That question was,

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“Should local areas have the power to extend trading hours on Sunday?” and that is the question that we are debating today, so it would be useful to know how many individuals who responded to the consultation were in favour of the proposal.

The answer that my hon. Friend and I received from the Minister is one of the most extraordinary that I have seen in my 10 years here. It stated:

“The Department does not hold full data from this consultation broken down by specific question as a large portion of respondents chose to respond in their own words”—

I assume that they were English words and there was no problem of translation—

“rather than addressing the consultation questions directly, and/or did not indicate the type of organisation they represented.”

That is unacceptable. There should be a proper, accountable process that enables us to judge the response to the consultation on the measure.

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): I very much respect my hon. Friend and his viewpoints. Nevertheless, will he explain why he thinks that high streets should be held back under restrictions when most internet shopping takes place on a Sunday? He refers to the consultation, but when people shop via the internet, are they not voting with their fingers, so to speak? Do they not want to be able to shop free from restrictions? Does not my hon. Friend want to support the high street in his constituency and those elsewhere in functioning without these restrictions?

Mr Burrowes: My hon. Friend will know that the Government’s review regarding high streets, about which he and I had concerns, made the case not for deregulation, but for dealing with issues such as parking and business rates, on which the Government are making good progress. On internet shopping, can a case be made that in the hours when large shops are not open—after 6 pm, say—everyone is clicking away on their computer because they cannot get to those shops? That makes no sense. There are other ways in which we can handle internet shopping. We need to look more broadly at how we can revitalise the high street, and this measure is not the way to do it.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Burrowes: I will give way a couple of times, but then I must make progress as others want to speak.

3.15 pm

Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): Surveys of internet shoppers show that there is no relationship between internet shopping on a Sunday and the desire for extended hours in local stores. Is the fact that people are on the internet between midnight and 3 am an argument for shops to be open at that time? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that is not the case?

Mr Burrowes: I agree.

Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con): Does this not boil down to a question of local democracy? How can it any longer be—[Interruption.]

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Mr Speaker: Order. Mr Chalk is a most courteous Member of the House. Just as he is courteous to the House, the House must be courteous to the hon. Gentleman. Let us hear from Mr Chalk.

Alex Chalk: Thank you, Mr Speaker. How can it any longer be right for politicians in Westminster to block local people in Cheltenham, for example, from amending trading hours if that is what they choose to do?

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op) rose—

Mr Burrowes: I will try to explain, but first I give way to the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), who has been very persistent.

Stephen Doughty: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I want to take him back to the point that he made about the consultation. We do have some data: the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers has told us that there were more than 7,000 responses to the consultation, and that it believes, as do I, that the vast majority were opposed to the proposal. Does the hon. Gentleman share that belief?

Mr Burrowes: Absolutely. It would be good if there were more transparency.

The Prime Minister has led the way, quite properly, in saying that the Government need to publish family impact statements whenever new policy is proposed. We need to look carefully at such statements, so the family impact of the proposed measure should receive serious consideration. I have put questions to the Business Secretary on a number of occasions—22 September, 15 October and 10 February—to ask for the publication of the family impact statement. The understanding was that it would be published alongside the Government’s response to the consultation, but that did not happen, and we have just received it, at the eleventh hour, before the debate.

The family impact statement makes several important points. It accepts that there could be a negative impact on the family and recognises that many individuals who responded to the consultation felt that families would be noticeably affected.

Michelle Donelan (Chippenham) (Con): I, too, respect the comments of my hon. Friend, but will he explain why we are so concerned about the family impact on those working in retail, yet we do not regulate for those who work shifts in sectors such as the NHS, transport, catering, hospitality—the list goes on?

Mr Burrowes: My hon. Friend makes a good point. It is often low-paid workers, in many cases women, who are affected by Sunday trading, and such trading has a knock-on effect on ancillary services in the supply chain to large stores. That, too, needs careful consideration.

On my substantive objections to the proposal, beyond the process—important though that is in determining how Members will vote later—an economic case has been made. It is important that we look at the evidence provided by not just the New West End Company, but Oxford Economics, which I mentioned earlier. It projects that under the Government’s proposals, 8,800 jobs would

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be lost in the convenience sector, with a net loss of 3,270 jobs in the wider grocery sector because of displaced trade from small to large businesses.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Burrowes: I am sorry, but I am going to make some progress so that other hon. Members have a chance to contribute to this important debate.

I am no great expert on businesses—I am taking the evidence that I have seen—but I do listen to the representatives of business organisations. When the Federation of Small Businesses, the Association of Convenience Stores, the National Federation of SubPostmasters, the Rural Shops Alliance, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents—many of us will have been to their regular receptions here, and expressed solidarity with them and concern about the challenges they face—are all united in saying that this change is bad news for our economy, I take that very seriously, as should other Members.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab) rose—

Mr Burrowes: I must make some progress.

My concern is that the proposal has not been properly thought through or evidenced. We are in danger of being seen to be responding to the voice of bigger business, rather than the small businesses on our high streets. Indeed, when the nearly unanimous opposition of small businesses is seen in tandem with the fact that nearly a quarter of the large businesses that responded to the Government’s consultation also oppose the proposal, we need to reflect very carefully on the lack of scrutiny in tacking these measures on to the Bill.

Like many other Members, I want to speak up for my high street. When I go back to my constituency, I do not think that the businesses on my high street would say, “Well done. Thank you very much for deregulating and giving more hours to the large shops.” I think that they would say, “Why aren’t you spending more time lowering our business rates, getting better car parking and reducing red tape?” I support the Government in their focus on that, so why are we getting distracted by the claim that the measure will in any way support our high streets?

Several points have been made about shop workers. We cannot ignore the fact that separated parents can face problems, such as if one parent has access rights at the weekend. One shop worker in that situation told me, “As I am separated, I have my children every other weekend. I work every Saturday and one in four Sundays. I often struggle to arrange childcare and fear that this has an effect on my relationship with my children.” We must listen to those voices.

In relation to the opt-outs, I welcome the fact that the Government are seeking to provide additional protections, but we have heard legal advice saying that that might not allay people’s concerns. In fact, despite the additional protections, there is already an issue regarding whether those who are unwilling to work on Sundays will be considered when they apply for a job. Indeed, as we have heard, people are already under an implied pressure to work longer hours.

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Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the holy alliance that he has assembled behind his amendment. A member of USDAW is quoted as saying:

“I’d be under pressure to do more hours on Sunday, making it impossible for me to go to church.”

Is that not an undesirable aspect of the proposal?

Mr Burrowes: The Government have tried to deal with that concern by putting forward additional religious protections in the Bill, and my amendment would not delete those. Whether the pressures are explicit or implied, they are a factor.

The Government did have a pilot in one sense, because such a measure was road-tested during the 2012 Olympics. A specific opt-out was created so that staff could avoid working the longer Sundays if they did not wish to, and retailers claimed that they would cover only those hours when staff volunteered to work. However, I understand that 564 representatives in stores that opened for longer hours found that in over half those stores—56%—despite the right to opt out, staff came under pressure to work the extra hours. Those who asked not to work the extra hours were threatened, or punished by being refused overtime.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that over half of those who work in shops in Northern Ireland, where opt-outs are already meant to be in place, have come under pressure, and that that is why 76% of those who work in the retail trade have said that they do not want hours to be extended, purely because they know that they would be under even greater pressure if local authorities accepted the longer hours?

Mr Burrowes: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. We should also consider the potential domino effect of the Government’s proposals. Another shop worker told me, “The idea that Sunday working is optional, and that this is enshrined in law, is laughable. They make you pay one way or another for objecting to working on a Sunday.”

When a policy is opposed by the small business community, by a good number of large businesses, by the majority of shop workers, and by Churches and other faith communities—the Chief Rabbi recently spoke passionately about properly respecting the special character of Sundays—we must ensure that we consider it carefully. There has already been deregulation in many forms, but there is still a special character that we can preserve. This does matter, because Sunday is still special for many people, and the Government should not chip away at that unfairly, unreasonably and without due process. We should ensure that there is a proper place for Sundays for families, businesses and workers.

This issue has come before the House on previous occasions. Mrs Thatcher’s Government were defeated by a large majority on an entire Bill in the House of Commons. I remember attending my first ever public meeting in 1986—it was my first foray into the world of politics—which was hosted by my local Member of Parliament, Michael Portillo. He appeared before a packed public meeting and completely misjudged the views of those present, many of whom had never been to a public meeting before. He saw for himself the huge concern in the community, having misjudged the strength

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of feeling about amending the hours of Sunday trading. Time has moved on, but there is still a strength of feeling out there—from shop workers, families, small businesses and others. That meeting was a formative political experience for me. We heard a statement from the Health Secretary earlier about learning from mistakes, and I urge the Government today not to make the same mistake again.

Mr Speaker: Order. Before we proceed with the debate, I have now to announce the result of the deferred Division on the question relating to EU measures to combat terrorism. The Ayes were 302 and the Noes were 217, so the Ayes have it.

[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. Before I call the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) as the next speaker in the debate, I would point out that we have two hours and 20 minutes left. If the Minister wishes to do so, I will shortly call him to speak from the Front Bench. A simple nod of the head will suffice.

Brandon Lewis indicated assent.

Mr Speaker: I appeal to colleagues to have regard to each other’s interests. We do not keep a formal list on Report, but I suspect there will be intense interest in these exchanges, so colleagues should look after the interests of each other.

Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will certainly endeavour to do so.

I rise in support of the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes), to which I have added my name, as have many other hon. Members on both sides of the House. I am completely opposed to any changes to Sunday trading regulations, whether it is their extension or their devolution to local councils. I am sceptical of what benefits, if any, it would bring to our economy but, more importantly, my concern lies with retail workers and my desire to keep Sunday special.

As a Greater Manchester MP, I am a huge supporter of devolution, particularly to a city as great as ours. However, to me the measure does not feel like beneficial devolution; rather, it feels like a dishonest manoeuvre from a Government who seem obsessed with introducing the policy even though there appears to be no public demand for it. I also have concerns about how the Government have gone about the process, in particular their flawed consultation, which I will address.

I am happy to declare an interest, in that I am an USDAW-sponsored MP, which I am particularly proud of. USDAW has led from the front in this campaign, representing the concerns of ordinary retail workers and ensuring that their voice is heard.

Lots of good, strong arguments were put forward in the excellent speech from the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate. I, too, intend to focus my speech on the family and faith aspects of Sundays but, first, I want to express my serious concerns about how the Government have gone about attempting to introduce the change.

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I believe it is at best mischievous and at worst a borderline fantasy when the Government say that the Bill in itself will not enact any changes to Sunday trading regulations, but leave that open to local councils to decide. They know as well as all hon. Members do that the measure will result in extended opening hours on Sundays. As soon as one council does it, neighbouring councils will soon fall, one after another, until extended hours are uniform.

Mr Alan Mak (Havant) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jonathan Reynolds: I will not give way because of the time constraints.

The Government should stop insulting the intelligence of the House and treat the clause as what it is: an explicit attempt to extend Sunday trading hours. I believe that devolution should be used to give councils the powers that they want and need. It should not be a way for the Government to abdicate responsibility for changes that they do not want to be blamed for, when they feel that the changes they intend to make will be unpopular and controversial. If the Government want to extend Sunday trading regulations, they should have the courage to introduce explicit legislation, so that Members of the House can have a proper debate and scrutinise the proposals. Instead, the Government have chosen to hide behind the veneer of devolution.

3.30 pm

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): I have been a district councillor for the past eight years. Facing a constant slew of demands on what district councillors must do is uninspiring. I would advocate the policy as a measure that will get more people into local government. They will have the optionality to decide. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but that would occur.

Jonathan Reynolds: I admire the attempt to get more people involved in local government by giving councillors more power—all hon. Members would celebrate that—but my point to the hon. Gentleman is this is not real power. It is an attempt to introduce a national liberalisation through the back-door veneer of devolution.

Another disappointment in the process was the Government’s consultation, which hon. Members have mentioned. It has been described to me on numerous occasions as a whitewash. The consultation concludes that the majority of responses were in favour of the proposal to devolve the power, yet in answer to a written parliamentary question to me on Monday, the Minister could not tell me how many of the 7,000-plus responses were against the proposal. How can the Government conclude that the majority of respondents were in favour of the proposal when they cannot even give the House the numbers? I was very disappointed with that answer. It should not be beyond the capabilities of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to work out how many respondents are for or against a Government proposal. I hope the Minister will be able to rectify that from the Dispatch Box and provide some much needed transparency.

My fundamental opposition to the clause comes from a passionate desire to keep Sunday special. When Sunday trading rules were relaxed during the Olympics, we were

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promised that it would be a temporary measure only, and yet here we are not even four years later with this proposal in front of us. The proposal ignores the wishes of retail staff. A staggering 91% of retail workers in larger stores do not want an extension of trading hours on a Sunday. To them, Sunday is a special day, much as it is in my household. I have four young children and two dogs, so I cannot claim that my Sundays are particularly restful or peaceful, but they are special—a time for the whole family to spend together. That should be the same for retail workers, more than half of whom already feel pressured to work Sundays.

Chris Philp (Croydon South) (Con): I share the hon. Gentleman’s desire to keep Sunday special, but is that not a matter of personal choice for him and for me individually, and not something for Parliament to impose by legislation?

Jonathan Reynolds: If the hon. Gentleman approaches this with good intentions, I advise him to talk to some of the retail workers in his constituency to see how they feel about the autonomy they have to decide whether they get to work longer Sundays or not. It is worth pointing out that none of us debating this in the House has to work Sundays if we do not want to.

The current regulations are a good compromise. Shops can trade on Sundays and staff can work if they want. At the same time, Sunday remains a special day, different from any other day of the week. Retail workers can spend some time with their families.

I do not believe the business case for changing Sunday trading regulations stacks up. Retailers already do very well on Sunday, with lots of footfall during a relatively short time window, which makes for more effective trading. The measure will also have a negative effect on smaller shops and retailers that are not subject to the regulations. Their businesses will suffer. In the most recent example of relaxation of Sunday trading—during the Olympics—retail sales actually declined.

As well as declaring my interest as an USDAW-sponsored MP, I am likewise very comfortable declaring my interest as a practising Christian. Understandably, that forms part of my opposition to any changes to Sunday trading, which I know I share with Members on both sides of the House. Of course, we live in a diverse country—I am extremely glad that we do so—but we should recognise that Christianity is the largest religion in this country. For Christians such as myself, Sunday is a special day. Sunday is when my family and I attend church, and the opportunity to do so should not be denied to people who have to work Sundays, whether in the morning or the evening.

Mr Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): Like my hon. Friend, I will be part of the holy alliance trying to keep Sundays special. For people of a Christian ethos, this is not necessarily about the promotion of church; it is about a deep-rooted sense of who we believe people to be. We are created with the ability to rest as well as to work. Also, our choices have an impact on other people’s choices. The freedom we seek to exercise for ourselves is paid for by other people.

Jonathan Reynolds: I endorse those points entirely, although it is worth noting that church attendance in many UK cities, even here in metropolitan London, is steadily rising.

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The Government have a responsibility to listen to faith groups on this issue, but they have failed to do so. The changes will place additional pressure on workers and families on what is still a traditional day of rest, a day of religious worship and a day to spend quality time with family members and close friends. For faith, for family and for the rights of many retail workers up and down this country, I will be voting for the amendment. I urge the House to show the courage required today to defeat the Government on this issue.

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Brandon Lewis): I appreciate being called early in the debate, and I hope I can help by outlining our thinking and the journey the Government want to take on this issue.

It is important that we recall why this measure on Sunday trading hours is before the House. The laws on trading in England and Wales were last updated in 1994—back when the only time we heard of Amazon was when we talked about the river, and back when our high streets faced no external pressures. The internet is liberating and changing the way we live and work, but the pressures on our high streets are rising, and the internet plays a part in that. Our measures will help them by giving local councils the right to expand Sunday trading.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): All those conditions were apparent just 10 months ago when the Conservative party stood on a manifesto that it presented to the British people, but there was zero mention of any change to Sunday trading laws. This measure represents a fundamental change to the social practice in our country, as the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) pointed out. Why have the Government now found all these reasons to introduce a measure in this absurd fashion?

Brandon Lewis: I have huge respect for my hon. Friend, having worked with him on a range of issues, but we clearly said in our manifesto that we were determined to drive economic growth, and we believe that this is an important part of that. That is why we referred to this last summer.

It is clear that local authorities believe they are the right bodies to hold this power. They represent local people, are accountable locally, know their areas best and want this power, which is why almost 200 have written asking for it to be devolved to them, including councils such as Carlisle, Chorley and, despite what the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) said, Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): My hon. Friend is very able and has a wonderful job, but he wants to spend time on a Sunday with his family. I have heard so many Members say they want to keep Sunday special for their family. Why should shop workers be any different?

Brandon Lewis: I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate that not only do people work in shops on Sundays already—in many areas, for longer than the opening hours, because of how shops work—but people working in retail, if they work six days a week, might like to visit

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retail outlets themselves on Sundays. The internet is growing: we saw a stark warning of that today as Amazon has announced it is opening another centre in Manchester, creating more jobs. That shows how it is growing and the pressure that the internet is applying, but of course we are not forcing anybody to shop on a Sunday.

Councils want this power. They want the ability to zone and to take a decision on trading in their area—for example, if they wish to promote the high street at the expense of out-of-town commercial sites. Our amendment allows that zoning to happen, and no one knows more about their local area than locally elected leaders. This also provides an opportunity for independent businesses to benefit. One of the big voices calling for this change is the Horticultural Trades Association, comprising mainly independent businesses, and it wants this growth.

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con): I think the Minister has hit the nail absolutely on the head. Listening to the debate hitherto, one might have thought that we were proposing to introduce Sunday trading. The Minister is absolutely right, and I speak as a former district councillor of 11 years standing, that it is not for this House to decide what is best for local areas—it is for those local areas and their local representatives, and they are being given discretion.

Brandon Lewis: I agree with my hon. Friend; I think he is right. One of the things I have been most passionate about, as have the Secretary of State, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, during the years of coalition as well as in this Parliament, is devolving power, and we just wish our friends in Scotland believed in devolving power, too. It is why organisations representing independent businesses like garden centres are so keen to benefit from this growth.

Mr Andrew Smith (Oxford East) (Lab): Let me take the Minister back to the important point made by his hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) in a measured speech in which he reminded us of the Prime Minister’s clear commitment just weeks before the general election:

“I can assure you that we have no plans to relax the Sunday trading laws. We believe the current system provides a reasonable balance”.

Does the Minister not think it matters if the Prime Minister says one thing just before a general election, if a policy is not in the Conservative manifesto, but the Government then do something completely different afterwards?

Brandon Lewis: I appreciate that the Labour party is not looking to drive economic growth, but our manifesto is clear that we want to see it, and the Prime Minister made it very clear at this very Dispatch Box last year that we thought it was time to review Sunday trading laws in the light of how things have moved on.

Several hon. Members rose

Brandon Lewis: I shall take some more interventions in a few moments, but I am aware of the Speaker’s correct point about the time available this afternoon.

If we look at our track record, it is clear that no party cares more about worker protection than this Conservative Government. We are the party of the national living wage—it is our Chancellor who has delivered it—and it

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is our measure that will protect shop workers. No one will be forced to work on a Sunday; indeed, everyone have the right to say no. We will also reduce the opt-out period for large shops, so that shop workers need give employers only one month’s notice of an unwillingness to work. We have to be clear that this is a package of amendments. Should amendment 1 go through today, Members of Opposition parties will be voting against improving workers’ rights, because that will go as well. Anyone who already works on a Sunday will have a new right to turn down extra hours to which they do not wish to commit. Labour and the SNP oppose all of that. They oppose giving workers who wish it the right to work longer and different hours, and they deny everyone the right to spend Sunday as they choose in their time with their families wherever and however they choose.

Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con): There are a number of convenience stores in my constituency that are below the 3,000 sq feet threshold. Many are franchisees and small businesses, so will the Minister elaborate a little further on what conversations he has had with those businesses about the proposed changes?

Brandon Lewis: I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate—he used to work closely with me—that I was once the Minister responsible for the high streets. My colleague who is currently the Minister responsible for the high streets and I work with the Future High Streets Forum, and I talk to small businesses all the time.

Clive Efford: As someone who has run his own independent retail business, may I tell the Minister that many independent traders have few extra resources? They will be forced to open to compete with the very large stores. What about the lifestyle of those people who would end up working seven days a week in order to try to keep their businesses running?

Brandon Lewis: I am slightly surprised by the hon. Gentleman’s comments. After all, his local authority is one that is saying that it wants this power, which he is trying to stop it taking. Labour-run Greenwich wants this power. Those small shops have the ability to open now, and they are in competition with 24-hour, seven-day-a-week internet shopping, including on Sundays. The hon. Gentleman might not realise it, but Amazon is open on a Sunday and it delivers on a Sunday. We want to give the high streets a chance to compete with that.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): Has my hon. Friend had any conversations with the leaders of the SNP about why they liberalised trading laws in Scotland, what advantages they sought from that, and why they are proposing to reverse it on the basis of their concerns about any of the issues other than pay that they wish to address?

3.45 pm

Brandon Lewis: My hon. Friend has made a very good point. Research conducted by the Association of Convenience Stores has established that there are more small independent shops per head of population in Scotland than there are in England. So the liberalisation in Scotland has worked—unless the hon. Member for

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Livingston (Hannah Bardell) is going to tell us, when she makes her speech later, that the SNP are about to go backwards and change the law there.

Richard Fuller: It seems to me that, if Conservative Members are being asked to vote for something that was not in our manifesto so shortly after the election, it should be because the situation is urgent, because there is a compelling argument in favour of the move, or because the circumstances have changed. The situation does not appear to me to be urgent. The Minister will finish his remarks, and he may advance a compelling argument. However, he seems to be resting on the assumption that the circumstances have changed, and in that context he has laid emphasis on internet shopping. He may be aware that, only yesterday, the head of the British Retail Consortium appeared before the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and talked about the evolution of business models. He said that, because high street retailers now have their own online retail outlets, they do not necessarily feel compelled to draw a distinction between the two kinds of retail for the purposes of achieving growth.

Brandon Lewis: My hon. Friend has, in fact, made it clear why it is important for local authorities to be able to decide locally what is right for them. He should also acknowledge that that it is often the larger high-street stores that are the draw for footfall in local areas. As he knows, I think that free car parking also plays a part, and I should like to see more of that.

As we all know, politics is not an exact science, and all but the most saintly of humans can sometimes contradict themselves, or be open to the charge of inconsistency. However, the contradictions that are inherent in the Labour-SNP opposition to our liberalisation proposals are so immense that I must draw attention to them.

As others have pointed out, there are no restrictions on Sunday trading in Scotland. First, SNP Members said—as one would expect—that they would support our proposals, and now they say that will not. Will the SNP Administration in Edinburgh be introducing the restrictions that currently apply in England, in order to be consistent? I should be interested to hear the answer to that question.

Do Labour Members—along with USDAW—plan to send letters to their constituents urging them to give up using the internet on Sundays, lest someone, somewhere, be exploited in a warehouse owned by Amazon or a similar company? I am tempted to ask the Opposition why they did not vote against this proposal in Committee, or even, in some cases, speak against it—neither the SNP nor Labour voted against it—and why they have not tabled an amendment themselves. Perhaps the wording of the amendment could have been something like “It has come to the attention of Labour and SNP that that some people shop on the internet on Sundays.” After all, Sunday is now the biggest internet shopping day of the week. It could have continued: “Labour and the SNP demand a law requiring people to switch off the internet on Sundays, in order to stamp out this disgraceful behaviour.”

Perhaps I should not give Opposition Members any ideas. How can anyone be opposed to the idea of walking into a shop on a Sunday to buy something—a

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book, for example, whether it is a little red one or not—but not opposed to the idea of buying that very same book, so long as it is done on the internet? Labour and the SNP—parties that are, effectively, in coalition today—are supporting Amazon’s profits at the expense of shops on our high streets. I am afraid that I struggle to understand the logic of that.

Caroline Flint: The Minister mentioned protection for shop workers earlier. I would welcome the strengthening of such protection. May I ask the Minister whether, if he loses the vote on Sunday opening tonight, he will retain the protection for shop workers that is in the Bill?

Brandon Lewis: We have made it clear from the beginning that this is a package. If Members vote for amendment 1, they will be voting against the improvement in workers’ rights.

Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (Con): I am deeply concerned about this issue, and my name is attached to amendment No. 1. I listened to what the Minister said this morning, when we spoke at some length about the proposed pilot. I would be willing to support that pilot if the Minister would give us a clear assurance that it will not just involve looking at economic drivers, but will take account of the overall impact, and apply the family test. A great many people who work shifts are put on the bottom of the list and end up working on Sundays because they cannot get to the top. We must make sure that that does not happen in this instance. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. First, may I appeal for as orderly an atmosphere as possible? The Chair seeks to facilitate as many contributors as possible. Secondly, Members are of course free to say what they like, but I would gently point out that no amendment or new clause on the subject of pilots is to be taken today. There is material before the House, but that subject is not among it.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you confirm again that the manuscript amendment that the Government attempted to sneak on to the amendment paper at the last minute today, which would have covered the compromise on which the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) seems to have done a deal, is in fact not on the amendment paper and not before the House?

Mr Speaker: It was not selected. For the benefit of people attending to our proceedings, I shall be explicit. It is for the Speaker to select or not to select, and I did not select that late-submitted manuscript proposal. I need add nothing.

Brandon Lewis: My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed makes a strong point, and she has been consistent on this matter. She makes a clear, passionate and strong point on the importance of family values and of our social fabric. If she will bear with me, I will touch on that matter in just a moment.

I would say to Opposition Members that we need to think about where we are with Sunday trading. Let us be very clear: none of us would put up with a Government

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banning cinemas from opening on Wednesday evenings, so why on earth would we put up with a Government telling us when we can and cannot open our businesses and run our shops, and telling us how we should be spending our time if we want to go shopping on a Sunday?

Mr Jackson: The Minister is fielding a difficult case very well. He is an excellent Minister with whom I have had the great honour to serve on the Housing and Planning Bill Committee. However, on the specific issue of employment rights, he will know that as a result of work commissioned by the Christian Institute, John Bowers QC said on 25 February that he considered the Government’s proposals for employment rights “inordinately complex”, and that they would offer

“no protection from detriment or dismissal for people who object to working on Sundays during the opt-out notice period.”

That is the issue, and that is what the best legal brains have told us about the Government’s proposal.

Brandon Lewis: I have a similar admiration for my hon. Friend. He is a fantastic colleague to work with at all times, but I disagree with him on this matter. We know what the Government lawyers have outlined, and the strengthening of rights as set out in our amendments goes beyond anything that Labour did while it was in government to increase workers’ protection. This is an important part of the package. Inconsistency from the parties on the Opposition Benches is one thing, but killing off jobs is entirely another. Given Labour’s unemployment record and its Maoist take on economics, however, I should perhaps not be surprised. The SNP and Labour did not even raise an amendment or a vote on this issue in Committee.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): Will the Minister give way?

Brandon Lewis: I will in a moment, but I want to make a bit of progress.

The estimates of the growth that liberalisation would deliver can be seen in the evidence. Growth, which would mean new jobs and more taxes to pay for public services, will come as a result of these changes. Estimates suggest an extra £300 million of sales in London alone. The letters that Labour and the SNP might be drafting, urging people to avoid the internet on Sundays, should include a postscript for anybody who is looking for a job right now. Maybe it could say, “Sorry, we’re opposing measures that could have helped you find a job.” And the SNP, the party that exists to promote local control over people’s own affairs, should perhaps add a PPS to explain why its members are voting to prevent devolution to English and Welsh councils when the control of shopping hours is already fully devolved to the Scottish Government.

Neil Gray (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP): Given that the Government have known the SNP’s position on this matter since November, why have they not come back with proposals to put the protection of premium pay into statute, for example, or indeed to devolve employment law so that we could sort this out for ourselves?

Brandon Lewis: I am struggling to treat that comment with any seriousness. I would simply remind the hon. Gentleman of the SNP’s comments on this issue that appeared in the press last week.

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Mr Shuker: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; he is obviously trying to defend a difficult position. The Government support the measure and the Opposition oppose it, yet several of the Minister’s party colleagues share deep concern, tapping into a conservative tradition of trying to preserve our institutions. I gently suggest that he might make better progress by making positive arguments for his proposals to those colleagues rather than by attacking the Opposition, and therefore Members on his side, as Maoists.

Brandon Lewis: I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s comments, but my colleagues and good friends around me are capable of defending themselves and making their case clearly, just as my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) has done this afternoon. I respect that, but the reality is that we want to provide an opportunity for economic growth and give our high streets the chance to regenerate. The hon. Member for Luton South (Mr Shuker) might want to have a look at the Hansard reports of the Committee stage to see the arguments we had then in more detail.

Robert Jenrick: The largest employer in my constituency is Knowhow, of which hon. Members may be aware from ordering TVs and electrical equipment. It is the biggest distributor of electrical equipment from online sales. Those workers—hundreds of my constituents—work on Sundays. How do hon. Members think that they get their deliveries on Monday morning? The Bill will enhance the rights of those workers. When hon. Members go online and order something on Amazon on a Saturday or Sunday, workers in my constituency and across the country will be working and will enjoy the benefits that the Bill will give them.

Brandon Lewis: My hon. Friend makes a strong point clearly and highlights another important point. The United States is one of the most observant places in the world on religious matters but it has more freedom than we do, and I am sure that Scottish Members would argue that family values and religious observance have not decreased following liberalisation. People will still be able to choose what they do and, arguably, have more flexibility on Sundays. We have to remember the workers who work six days a week and who want more opportunities when choosing how to spend their time.

Mr Chope: Will the Minister give way?

Brandon Lewis: Before I take any more interventions, I am aware of your comments about the time available this afternoon, Mr Speaker, and want to make a little progress. There are Members on both sides of the House, particularly on my side, whose consciences make this a difficult subject, and I respect their moral views. They are speaking from strong positions, rather than playing with political opportunism, which some Opposition Members are doing. I want to set out our journey of travel so that the House gets a feeling for what we are planning. We intend to go further and do something different from what we initially proposed in the protections on offer.

Having listened to colleagues and discussed their principled objections with them, I want to propose something. Before I do, I should make it clear that it deals with the concerns raised by SNP Members in the

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press, so we will find out whether they really believe what they have been saying over the past 24 hours. Rather than applying the liberalisation nationwide from day one, the Government will invite local authorities that want to liberalise hours to apply for participation in an exploratory phase. Twelve places, geographically, economically and demographically diverse, will be locally recommended to us.

Taking your absolutely correct point about the manuscript amendment to heart, Mr Speaker, may I say that if hon. Members join the Government and me in voting against amendment 1 today, we will table an amendment in the other place? I have circulated that amendment to colleagues this afternoon. During an exploratory phase, we will gather evidence about the impact of liberalisation, including the use of zoning and its effect on those local economies. And of course the impacts on workers will be measured, too. My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) and other colleagues have made this case clearly, strongly and passionately, and we are listening and have heard what they say. We want to make sure that we are able to have a proper assessment. I will liaise with colleagues over the next few weeks to make sure that our performance indicators recognise, assess and look at this as part of the criteria over the next 12 months.

4 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to proceed with a promise of legislation that is not on the amendment paper for us to consider, and for Members therefore to vote on something that they do not have in front of them? The measure we are voting on is not promises; it has to be in front of us, so that we can discuss it here in this Chamber.

Mr Speaker: Let me explain the position to the hon. Gentleman, to whom I am genuinely grateful for his point of order, and for the benefit of the House. There is nothing disorderly in the Minister giving an indication of how the Government would propose to proceed. If a Minister wishes to say to the House, “Our intention is to proceed with pilots”, it is perfectly in order for the Minister to do that. But of one thing, procedurally and constitutionally, the House needs to be made again aware: Members are voting on that which is on the paper and which the Speaker has selected. Members are not voting on a Government proposal or words about pilots; they are voting on that which is on the paper. The matter under discussion is the amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes). We are voting on that, not on a Government proposal, and I hope that that is clear.

Brandon Lewis: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Several hon. Members rose

Brandon Lewis: I will take some interventions in just a second. Obviously, you are absolutely right, as always, Mr Speaker. I would not dream of taking any other view. What I wanted to outline to my hon. Friends and to colleagues across this House is that what Mr Speaker said is absolutely right: we are saying that if the House votes against amendment 1, what I have outlined is what the Government will then do.

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Mr Chope: I have been writing to constituents over the past six months saying that I agree with the Prime Minister on this issue and, in particular, with what he said in his letter of 20 April. I wonder whether my hon. Friend would be able to help me in drafting a new letter if I were to go into the wrong Lobby. May I ask him whether the Government would introduce fresh legislation in the Queen’s Speech? Why not bring forward a fresh Bill and have a proper discussion about this, de novo?

Brandon Lewis: I appreciate my hon. Friend’s faith in my ability to draft a letter, and I am happy to do that. As he talks about this being over the past six months, I would gently point his local residents towards the fact that both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor last summer outlined that we wanted to review the Sunday trading laws, in the light of how things were moving on economically and the speed with which internet shopping is growing.

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Is the Minister telling us that the conscience of this House and of individual Members of this House can be salved in some way by the promise of a stay of execution but with a really nice funeral later on? Is that in essence what he is telling us? Would he not be far better withdrawing this measure now and bringing back new measures at a later stage?

Brandon Lewis: I am just going to continue outlining exactly the journey of travel would be. What he has outlined is not quite what we are looking at. We would have pilots; local areas would come in and say that they want to be part of this. We must bear in mind that almost 200 local authorities want this power. The Government would choose 12 areas with a good demographic spread to look at over the next 12 months.

Several hon. Members rose

Brandon Lewis: I will take some more interventions in a moment, but I want to finish answering the hon. Gentleman’s point. There would be an opportunity to look at the assessment of that over the next 12 months, and we would report back to Parliament with the findings, based on agreed key performance indicators. In 12 months’ time, this will come back to Parliament—on the Floor of this House. An evaluation of this exploratory phase will be published. We are circulating a draft for colleagues to consider, and I will be asking them to support us by opposing amendments 1 and 19, and supporting the Government amendments 2, 13 and 14, which will then allow us to do this in the House of Lords.

That will take us to an evaluation of this exploratory phase, which will be published. After that pilot period, the House will then debate and vote again on extending the right to every council in England and Wales. Therefore, the matter will come back to this House for a full debate, during which Members will have the evidence before them.